USDA Marmorated Stink Bug Presentation

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

As promised, I took notes during the talk and I have tried to include here the salient points of the presentation. Because of the seriousness of this matter I have perhaps erred on the side of being too inclusive. If so, I apologize.

To make this body of writing more readable, I am uploading it in sections, rather than as a single post. The photo accompanying this first post is a scan of a chart provided at Dr. Leskey’s presentation. I thought it a good assemblage of information and hope readers may find it of benefit.

Also, in conversation with an adjacent attendee I found out that lemon juice is very effective for removing the odor of stink bugs from one’s skin. Chemist husband figured that the smell was due to an amine or other nitrogenous organic compound, thus a weak base, and that an acid would interact with it. Not part of the lecture, but very useful.

Thumbnail by greenthumb99
Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)


On Wednesday February 9th I attended the presentation about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s National Conservation Training Center outside Shepherdstown, WV. Arriving a full half hour before the talk I was surprised to find the facility’s auditorium at least three quarters full. Chairs were added along the walls and some aisles. By the time the presentation began there were many attendees standing and two classrooms connected with closed circuit TV were opened.

The presenter was Dr. Tracy Leskey, an entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV, and co-chair of a special USDA working group that is trying to find ways to respond to the problems the insect poses. This group involves over 50 researches and their staffs at 14 institutions in 10 states. Dr. Leskey was a very articulate and engaging speaker who gave an excellent presentation with visual aids and casual humor, not at all dry or tedious.

While her talk was primarily addressed the impact on commercial agriculture, Dr. Leskey assured the record crowd that what they were finding out would translate into beneficial information for the besieged homeowner and gardener. Having thousands of the stink bugs overwintering in her attic, she was acutely aware of the impact on society at large.

This message was edited Feb 10, 2011 8:56 PM

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)


The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is believed to have entered the country in 1996 in packing materials form China. Complaints from homeowners in Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New York and New Jersey of stink bugs entering their homes began to accumulate in the years thereafter. Despite the fact that this had never been a problem with our native species, and that some specimens had been collected, it was not until 2001 that the first positive identification was made in Allentown, PA.

On October 8, 2003 the first identified specimen in Maryland was collected by Dr. Leskey off a gas pump near the Prime Outlets Mall in Hagerstown. Subsequent field work by Dr. Leskey and her staff revealed that an established population already existed in the Hagerstown area. A year later the first BMSB was identified in West Virginia in the near-by town of Falling Waters.

While homeowner complaints of fall invasions accelerated over the next few years, it was not until fall of 2008 that the first reports of late-season injury to tree fruit were filed by growers in the region. Since that time the problem has grown to serious levels of early-, mid- and late-season injury to a wide array of crops in PA, MD, WV, NJ and DE. Detection and nuisance levels of populations have spread to an additional 25 states, and a wider occurrence is expected this year.

Factors in the large population increase from 2009 to 2010 are as yet undetermined. Some suggest that the heavy snow cover of the winter of 2009 – 2010 provided extra protection for the overwintering adults. Dr. Leskey noted, however, that they “are doing quite well in Portsmouth, New Hampshire”, thus cold weather does not seem to be a deterrent.

This message was edited Feb 10, 2011 9:00 PM

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)

Agricultural Impact

Since 2008 researchers have been scrambling to learn about the BMSB and to develop protocols for measuring population and crop damage levels. Reliable, objective measurements are crucial for assessing this insect’s impact, and conveying the level of that impact to governmental entities and the private sector in order to initiate sufficient response to this problem. To date more than 300 plant species have been identified as hosts for this recent invader. These range from a plethora of food crops to a variety of trees such as maples, sycamores and sweet gums, and ornamentals like chrysanthemums, coleus and sunflowers.

Agricultural crops affected are mostly those with above-ground fruiting structures. By far the greatest impact to date has been on tree fruit production. Even in spring the adult and newly-hatched nymphs are now feeding on the tiny, developing fruit such as apples and peaches. When they feed they insert their proboscis deep into the fruit, inject enzymes and extract the resulting liquid from the lysed or “dissolved” tissues. As the fruit matures, a region of discolored, corky tissue develops in the fruit at each feeding location. The resulting mature fruit is very unsightly both externally and internally and is rendered unfit even for processing into juice or other products.

Orchard “blocks” of tree fruit tend to display higher levels of damage on their perimeters than in the centers. A typical report may show 60% damage around the perimeter, and perhaps 40 % damage to the crop in the interior of the block. This indicates that the insects are overwintering and initially reproducing elsewhere and migrating into the orchard to feed. Some local orchards have reported losses as high as 90%, and in some cases they did not even attempt to harvest this past fall, their entire crop a loss. To make matters worse, fruit that is fed upon just before harvest may not show any signs of damage at time of picking and is taken to market. These fruits develop the observable characteristics of damage after just a few weeks of storage. Currently, losses in cold storage are running as high as 50%. Losses in the local orchard industry are becoming catastrophic and seriously threaten our food supply.

With the (as yet) exception of strawberries, all manner of berry crops are being impacted. Likewise, early feeding is affecting nut production, and home gardeners are becoming well aware of the impact on tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. Infestation of grapes not only diminishes the yield of usable fruit, but the stink bugs hide in the clusters and may add their unsavory essence to the resulting wine.

Soybean plants fed on by these stink bugs keep growing in the fall, perhaps to compensate for the inflicted damage. As a result, they do not senesce, or die back and dry up, preventing their harvest. Photos were shown where soybean fields were all green except in the center where the stink bugs had not reached, again a massive crop loss.

When BMSBs feed on corn they affect it in two ways: 1) they feed on the tassels, thus disrupting pollination, and 2) they insert their proboscises through the husk and into individual kernels on the cob, which then do not develop properly. Also, when the corn is harvested, numerous stink bugs may be incorporated into the crop. If made into silage, will the cattle eat it? If they do, will it taint the milk they produce? Stay tuned.

This message was edited Feb 10, 2011 9:06 PM

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)


There are several categories of controls, all of which are being explored. First of all are those known as Conservation Biological Controls, which utilize organisms native or indigenous to the area of infestation. A number of birds will eat them, including crows, grackles, chickens and some songbirds such as titmice. However, they do not present as a significant controlling factor. Also, it has yet to be determined if feeding on these stink bugs affects the taste of chicken flesh or that of their eggs.

Our native parasitic insects such as tachinid flies and parasitic wasps don’t prey on this species to any significant degree. A worker found a dead BMSB covered with a fungus. When an individual with this fungus is placed in a container with healthy BMSBs, all the stink bugs become infected and die. This is obviously being pursued with great interest.

Another category of controls, the Classical Biological Controls, is where organisms from the invader’s native environment are utilized in their new area of infestation. Some Asian tachinid flies have shown to be effective, and one species of Asian parasitic wasp has been found to parasitize some 80% of BMSB eggs in a controlled environment. Because the introduction alien organisms into our local environment is so fraught with potential problems, extensive research must be conducted before such insects will be permitted as controlling agents. This, of course, prevents their immediate and perhaps future use as biological controls.

Currently, the pheromone of a related Asian stink bug is being used as an attractant for traps, but it is not as effective as desired. Since the beginning of the year a researcher at the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Center in Beltsville, MD, has announced that he has determined the chemical structure of the pheromone of the BMSB. This paves the way for possible production and distribution of a compound that may be used for trapping these pests or disrupting their reproductive activities. There is no indication that the odor that we are so familiar with and sensitive to has any effect in attracting or repelling these bugs.

Even the use of insecticides is problematic. In addition to the fact that many beneficial insects, including crop pollinators, are killed by such chemicals, there is the finding that these stink bugs are difficult to kill. Even when directly doused with many insectides these bugs go into a coma-like state, appear to die, and then revive. Insecticidal soap is effective when in direct contact if still in the liquid state, and is very effective in destroying their eggs if sprayed on them.

Lucketts, VA(Zone 7a)


The most common comment I heard as the crowd dispersed was, “Wow, it’s even worse that I imagined.” Members of the audience were clearly sobered by the implications for the local agricultural economy and precariousness of our food supply. Lots of people are working very hard on this problem, but it will likely get worse before effective controlling measures are devised and implemented. Dr. Leskey thinks that once a course of action is identified that the response will be on a national scale similar to that in the case of the Gypsy Moth. We appear to have quite a battle ahead of us.

Crozet, VA

Very interesting reading. Thank you greenthumb for sharing. Yes, my comment is the same as the conference attendees. Good grief. I am still finding at least one or two of these invaders a day. To think that my attic is full of them is very sobering.

It is very scary to hear of the crop damages already taken place. Your closing sentence is another thing we must be ready for. Let's hope the scientists will soon find a way for us to be done with these small monsters.

Again, thank you for the information.


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Not good.
Thanks for reporting!

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Excellent report on a very serious issue.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

OMG!!!! I never thought about my attic!
The screens that cover the end vents are shot!

I haven't been up there since fall.....Not overly worried--as I did not
see all that many SB's in my garden last summer. Just a couple....

David--I printed out your report--along with the picture.
Hope you don't mind.....Will use the knowledge in the Garden at HD
if people need information.


Adamstown, MD(Zone 6b)

Thank you for sharing this very interesting but not encouraging information. We were inundated with BMSBs last fall and I hate to think what might be wintering over under our roof. We still find a couple in the house almost every day. . . . .

Dover, PA(Zone 6b)

Gita, I was thinking the exact same thing. Wonder what might be up there.

Burgaw, NC(Zone 8a)

Well, you,ve probably answered my just posted question as best it can be. Thanks. Disappointing, but thanks. I'll probably try the Safer Brand product when I start to see significant numbers, just so I'll have "less" damage.

Chevy Chase, MD(Zone 7a)

Thanks for keeping us informed, David. I hope an organic method of control will be developed. In the same vein, apparently some restaurants are now featuring Snakefish, which is a terrific solution to an awful problem. Who knows - maybe stinkbugs will taste good dipped in chocolate. Or ice cream maybe?

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

''maybe stinkbugs will taste good dipped in chocolate. Or ice cream maybe?''

oooh. I am glad I already finished

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Here are links to another thread where we have been discussing various methods of stink bug control.

Any adult overwintering stink bug that is eliminated now will be two or three generations less of stink bug desendants that will try to over winter this fall after they have ruined harvests this summer.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

I have a couple bottles of some kind of Tomato and Vegetable Insect Control spray by "Sure-Fire".
I think O bought them at "Good Stuff Cheap"---aka as "T.J. Liquidators".

The few Sting Bugs that I have come across (like in my shed) I just dropped them in a cup
and sprayed some of this stuff on them--and they were goners in about 30 seconds.
The active ingredient in this stuff is Pyrethrin.

I still have not cleaned out my shed--always a project that has been put off.
I dread doing it!!! Takes about 2 days. I WILL have a cup and this spray handy, though.


Burgaw, NC(Zone 8a)

Thanks coleup. Guess I', pretty lucky, so far down here in NC. No hoards of home invaders, yet. About 20 yr ago, my tomatoes were severely damaged by an uncontrollable mob of stink bugs, but they must not have been these new invaders? It was weird; though there were some SBs the preceeding and following years, nothing like that one year in particular. Is there somewhere I can view pics of our natives and the BMSDs for comparison?

Crozet, VA

Last summer when the invaders were at their very worst we were told of a product which since, I have purchased several times and used with great success. I haven't checked the ingredients on it for safety, but just sprayed away and haven't been bothered much with bugs since.

The product we were advised of it called Bengals GOLD Roach Killer. It needs to the GOLD brand for some reason but using it seems to deter them for some weeks afterwards. We have not yet had a problem this summer, and I have actually seen less now with the warm weather than I did in the cooler months of the winter. You are to spray the affected areas, and around entry points of the house. We sprayed around the door we use mainly to enter the house and also spray at the french doors leading to the back deck and yard. Last year when they were so thick I would awake each morning and have in the neighborhood of about thirty or so dead ones at the floors in front of the doors. That suited me fine, gone with a sweep of the broom.

I am hoping there won't be a return like we had last year. John says they will be back.....I hope he is incorrect on this. I am ready with my six pack of Bengal Gold Roach Spray if they do return.


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)
Above link How to identify from Rutgers University

I don't see that anyone has added this bug to our Bugfiles- !

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I watched a video report from the MD State entomologist, linked from that site. It's pretty shocking, how much damage the bugs can do. Yet we hear about nothing this year in the news.

Mount Pleasant, PA(Zone 6a)

Thank you! Excellent (AND SCARY) information. When we lived in Champion/Seven Springs I never saw the little devils. We moved to Mt. Pleasant last July & I keep finding them here & there in the house. Death to the stink bugs I hope a solution is found soon!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

The video I watched said for commercial crops, the organic stuff is just not very effective. THe recommendation was to use pyrethroids. Look for a word ending in "oid" on the label.

Crozet, VA

Thanks so much Sally.....ever on the ball, you are.


annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

Quote from greenthumb99 :

Even the use of insecticides is problematic. In addition to the fact that many beneficial insects, including crop pollinators, are killed by such chemicals, there is the finding that these stink bugs are difficult to kill. Even when directly doused with many insectides these bugs go into a coma-like state, appear to die, and then revive. Insecticidal soap is effective when in direct contact if still in the liquid state, and is very effective in destroying their eggs if sprayed on them.

Sally et al, Did you know that"pyrithrims, pyroids and derrivatives" are highly toxic to honey bees and other insects, as well as fish and amphibians. Bengal Gold uses sumithrin, a derrivative. Cautions are to not allow contact with wet or dried spray by children or pets, especially cats. Individuals may develope asthsma type symptoms or a skin rash or worse.
These are neurotoxins, not "safe" because they are made from chrysanthemums or their chemical equivalents! Yes, they are least toxic especially when compared to organophosphates... Please be careful.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

My two weapons against brown marmorated stink bugs are
1) a cup with an inch or two of water with a squirt of dish soap and a lid.

I find stink bugs will drop quite easily into a cup with a little nudge from say a straw (comes free with cup and lid) and will drown in a second or two and sink to bottom so I can verify that they are not 'faking it'.

After eliminating all of the stink bugs throughout the season by use of #1, and having sealed my home in ways recommended, I use

2) a cheap small liquid/dry vac with again two inches of water and a squirt of dish detergent and vacuum them up as they appear (usually on the west side of my house between 1 and 5 pm. I have fashioned an extra long hose supported by a bamboo pole that allows me to reach as high as the roof peak. They land on house about window height and then .begin to crawl upwards.

The vacuum also works for gypsy moth caterpillars and Japanese beetles, etc.

This message was edited Jun 16, 2012 4:40 PM

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

The entomologist on the video talked about using light traps to monitor test plot populations. and that some light traps in the worst places got 400 bugs (overnight? not sure) Anyway, light traps seem very effective. And low toxic! There's got to be something on the internet, how to make one.. There was a guy in NJ? PA? who made his with a soda bottle and a small LED light, and used it in his attic.

The corn farmers were very concerned that the cows might not eat the silage with BMSBs in it, and that if they did, the bug stink might get in the milk flavor -How awful that would be.

annapolis, MD(Zone 7b)

I've started a new continuation thread here for Fall 2012 discussion and monitoring

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